“I don’t consider myself a religious person,” I explained to the doctor, “but if I’m religious about anything, it’s taking Gleevec.” It’s been a ritual for me to take my miracle medication every morning for 15 years (minus 27 months of pregnancies), alongside my protein-powered breakfast. I can count on my hand the number of times I’ve missed my medication—ever. After all, if you’re given a miracle med, you might as well be devout about taking it. Not to confuse my religious experiences with my spiritual journey. I am a deeply spiritual person, longing daily to connect to the Divine and live life in the light of grace and truth. But that’s for another blog.
I was a part of making medical history—Gleevec changed the way cancer could be treated—the original “smart bomb” that targets my disease specifically and accurately, without launching a blanket chemo attack on all cells—the fight metaphor is everywhere! One doctor in a recent CBS 60 Minutes interview called Gleevec the most effective cancer drug ever made. Although, he was challenged by another doctor who commented on the financial toxicity of Gleevec, explaining that drugs are only as affective as they are affordable. Over the last few years, Gleevec has tripled in price! Marketing the miracle.
I never anticipated having such a religious attachment to a cancer treatment until it ended last week. It’s been a significant part of my life, my health, my history, my routine…and now it’s time to change things up. Gleevec was my first-line treatment. Now, it’s been superseded by Sprycel—a new drug that promises to be even more effective than its predecessor. Sprycel also comes with a level of financial toxicity—more calls to insurance, specialty pharmacies and copay assistance programs. And since I’m only a few days into taking it, I’m hoping it proves to be even more effective with minimal toxicity to my body. That’s what February and March will entail—pokes and prods to ensure the new drug is doing its job targeting leukemia molecules and not my other healthy molecules.
So, this morning I sat down with my same high-protein breakfast, my water bottle, my favorite cup of Earl Grey, and my new white Sprycel pill. I took it just the same way I’ve taken Gleevec for so long, even though the instructions didn’t specify I had to take it that way. Where does this kind of transition fit in to life? How do I end something I’ve associated with health, well-being, and life-saving miracles for 15 years? I guess I jump to another and consider it a change in my daily religious habits. Things always feel more settled when I can put a good metaphor to them. Good-bye little gold pill.